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Nosocomial Infections Essay

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An Epidemic of Obesity in the United States and How it Will
Affect the Future of the Healthcare System
Hunter Williams
University of South Florida




The United States is facing a growing epidemic of obesity. There are several comorbid and chronic medical conditions that are associated with obesity that becomes paramount later in life among those who are overweight and obese. At the same time as the epidemic of obesity is occurring the staggering amount of money that America spends on healthcare is increasing at a rapidly as new products and pharmaceuticals are constantly be released to consumers. In the very near future this already strained healthcare system is going to get a huge surge in patients with chronic medical conditions as these problems in this obese demographic begin to manifest. To add to this problem the changing demographics of the U.S. population is soon to see increasing numbers of people receiving the benefits of Medicare and social security and fewer people contributing to this system due to the aging population. The aging population along with the comorbid health conditions among the epidemic of obese Americans will place an increasing demand for services on this already heavily strained healthcare system and will be unsustainable.



Advances in medical technology are helping people live longer and battle diseases that in earlier years would have killed them. Newer medicines and procedures have enabled physicians not to cure but rather to successfully treat patients with chronic conditions and keep them alive. This leads to the question than that are we becoming healthier as a nation or is America becoming a nation in which sicker people and those living with more chronic (as well as more expensive) conditions simply living longer? One would have to believe that the latter is true. Even though the United States has the most expensive healthcare system in the wo rld, we are not necessarily healthier as a nation overall when considering the large and growing number of Americans with chronic medical conditions. An alarming trend among the U.S. population is the rapidly increasing amount of Americans that are overweight and obese (Dietz, Benken and Hunter, 2009). Researchers have shown that obesity is associated with the development of several chronic health conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease (Gulati, 2003). This growing number of people therefore suffers not only from obesity but also from these other medical ailments resulting in dramatically increasing healthcare costs in order to provide the necessary medical care and treatment they need in order to live with these chronic, comorbid conditions. This creates what may be called may be called a “perfect storm” in the sense that the current unsustainable growth in the cost of healthcare for this nation is coupled with an estimated shortfall in future healthcare funding along with increa sing demands being placed onto this system already taxed system. This creates a very complex problem that is



too diverse to examine under the scope of a single knowledge discipline. Applying an interdisciplinary research approach to this problem will allow us to draw on existing knowledge and perspectives from different disciplines and through a process of integrating what we obtain from these perspectives to produce a more comprehensive understanding of the problem at hand (Repko, 2008). The focus of this research is then to examine this dilemma from a sociological perspective providing insight into obesity in America, its demographics and how and why it has become such an epidemic. We shall also examine this problem with an economic perspective to detail how the future of the financial status of the U.S. healthcare system is unsustainable at its current pace and as to how the economic burden of obesit y and the chronic medical conditions that are associated with it are in part responsible for this . Through the integration of the knowledge and ideas from the disciplines of sociology and economics we shall see that obesity is a threat not only to the nation’s health but also to its economic wellbeing. Literature Review

Within the past few generations the rates of obesity among Americans has been on the rise. Early in the twentieth century the average person’s body mass index (BMI) was either at an optimal level or below that value. In the 1960’s the average American male weighed 168 pounds and today weighs around 180 pounds. During this same timeframe the average weight of the adult female rose from 143 to 155 pounds. Over the past 40 years, the percentage of the



American population that is either overweight or obese has increased from 45 to 61 percent with obesity rates specifically rising from 13 to 34 percent. The majority of this increase has occurred within the 1980’s and 1990’s (Cutler, Glaser and Shapiro, 2003). For clarification; the primary and standard measure in determining obesity is based on a person’s body mass index (BMI). The BMI is a value representing the comparison of a person’s height and weight (BMI=Kg/M²). A BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, 30 to 39.9 obese, and 40 and greater is morbidly or severely obese (Ferraro and Kelley-Moore, 2003). The obesity rate in America is rapidly rising to epidemic proportions (Gulati, 2003). The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) posted in its 2005-2006 report that of adults in the United States that are 20 years and older, 33 percent are overweight, 34 percent are obese and 6 percent are considered morbidly or extremely obese. In a...

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